Working with a Translator


What to expect when you need something translated


The following tips apply not only to freelance translators and translation firms, but in many cases to your organizations own in-house translators. Before approaching a translator, have the following information on hand.

  1. Define the subject of the document. Committee minutes, a newsletter article, a guide for an exhibition, a maintenance manual? The fields of specialization is a good source of subject areas.
  2. Specify the languages the document is to be translated from and into. Most translators work from one or more languages but only into their mother tongue.
  3. Determine the length of the document. You should at least be able to say how many pages it is. If you have the document on disk, most word-processing programs can count the words for you. This is the most accurate way of measuring the "length" of a document.
  4. Find out whether it is an update of something that has already been translated. If so, you could save yourself some money--it may not be necessary to translate the whole document, but only the parts that have changed.
  5. Locate any background information on the subject . This could include a glossary put out by your company or organization, similar publications, or the books or articles used as references by the author of the document .
  6. Provide the name and number of a resource person. The translator may have questions for the author or someone else familiar with the document.
  7. Set a deadline for delivery. Remember that in many cases, the translator's rate will reflect the urgency of the request. If you call in a plumber for overnight or weekend work, you'll pay extra--the same applies for a translator!

Questions to ask the translator

It is always preferable to ask questions before the work begins and thereby establish a good working relationship.

  • What is the translators experience in this field (other customers, education and training, previous non-translation work experience)?
  • Will the translation be billed by the word or by the hour, and what is the rate, in either case?
  • Can the translator provide a written estimate before beginning the work?
  • Is proofreading included in the price? What is the procedure if there are last-minute changes or changes after the work is delivered?
  • Does the translator have the same word-processing software used by the customer?

Some final suggestions

  • When you're dealing with a translator outside your company, you may wish to sign a simple contract. There's no harm in asking for something in writing. For long jobs, you may wish to agree on partial deliveries (and partial payments) along the way.
  • It never hurts to have someone in your company or unit look over the finished translation. You may have your own in-house jargon or turns of phrase, which the translator has no way of knowing.
  • Be sure to allow enough time for your translation. A translator's output will rise or fall substantially depending on the difficulty of the text and the translator's experience in the field. Give as much notice as possible of an upcoming job so you can be slotted into the translator's schedule.
  • Finally, translators are not word-processing experts or graphic artists. Don't expect a ready-to-print document.
  • If you are unhappy with the final product, talk to the translator first. If you would like a different style, say so and explain what you are looking for. Remember that different languages have different ways of expressing the same things!
  • If you are happy with the final product (and we hope you will be), why not call and say so! Build a working relationship with one or more translators, and they'll become familiar with your preferences, style and terminology. You'll all benefit.




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